Manager wants to fill P&Z job by October - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Manager wants to fill P&Z job by October

Andrews asks council to initiate search process, proposed subcommittee would field applicants

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Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 11:00 pm

In an effort to fill a potential multi-million dollar budget deficit earlier this year, Oro Valley officials offered an employee buyout package.

By mid-July, 20 employees took up the offer. Along with positions that remain vacant in a hiring freeze, Oro Valley could save more than $1.1 million in annual personnel costs.

While the absence of so many workers will undoubtedly be felt, one appears to be a position the town can't live without: planning and zoning director.

Town Manager David Andrews has requested the town council allow him to initiate a process to fill the position. His request is predicated by the ongoing council-mandated hiring freeze.

"In order to select the best candidate, I am proposing that a subcommittee be used to evaluate applicants," Andrews wrote the mayor and town council on Aug. 10.

Andrews proposed having the chairmen of the planning and zoning, development review, board of adjustment, art review and historic preservation commissions sit on the subcommittee along with the human resources director and himself.

The group would make initial evaluations of applicants for the director's position, while Andrews and Human Resources Director Sandra Abbey would narrow the field to 10 applicants.

That list would then be forwarded to the council, and candidates would sit for interviews. The council would then decide on the best applicant and direct Andrews to make an offer.

Former Planning and Zoning Director Sarah More left the town in July to head up the town of Sahuarita's planning department. Her annual salary and benefits package with Oro Valley totaled $130,000.

During the run-up to the town's final budget in May, More's job twice appeared on reduction-in-force proposals Andrews and other department bosses prepared for council consideration. At its peak, the list identified 33 jobs that would either have been eliminated or not filled if already vacant.

"It wasn't the position itself that was up for the auction block," said Mary Davis, Oro Valley's communications administrator who was speaking on Andrews' behalf.

Davis said the manager had initially planned to consolidate More's department with engineering, development review and building safety. Even under consolidation, Davis said, planning and zoning would have had a department administrator.

That plan to consolidate was conceived in light of the shrunken workload of building- and planning-related activities in Oro Valley.

"There were several council members who felt there wasn't enough work for the department," Davis said.

New growth has slowed to a near standstill in the current economic downturn. In addition, the town faces build out, with roughly 15 percent buildable land remaining.

The consolidation plan was superceded during the final budget vote, however, when Mayor Paul Loomis successfully moved that the town use nearly a half-million dollars in reserves to save it from having to make layoffs.

Some in Oro Valley have speculated privately that More likely would have gotten pushed out even after the council voted to retain her position. Part of the conjecture stems from the always-political nature of the planning and zoning process.

Major battles were fought during More's tenure over development issues, including the construction of a funeral home and crematory in Rancho Vistoso and nearly every aspect of the Oro Valley Marketplace.

Even today, the matter of a change in paint color for a section of buildings at the Oro Valley Marketplace sparked a small but vocal outcry from community members.

While publicly unaware of any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get rid of More, Councilman Bill Garner acknowledged that the past had left many in the community bitter.

"It gets back to the old story about Oro Valley, everyone had a festering about the Marketplace," Garner said.

Garner said the planning and zoning position invariably attracts criticism from builders, community members and politicians.

The planning and zoning director is allowed certain latitude to make administrative changes to council-approved zoning decisions. Often, those decisions draw outrage from the community.

"Planning and zoning director ends up in the middle of the whole process," Garner said.

If the council decides to fill the post, the candidate likely won't see the end of contentious development projects. With few spaces left for development in Oro Valley, every proposal could develop into a heated political fight.

Many of the remaining developable spaces in the town lie in its interior. Infill projects tend to be the most contentious because of proximity to existing developments and neighbors who worry the new development would obstruct views or cause traffic congestion.

Town Manager Andrews has asked the council to first allow for an internal search for More's replacement. If that effort comes up empty, the town would broaden the search nationally.

Andrews told the council he hopes to have the post filled by the end of October.

Assistant Planning Director Paul Popelka has been interim department head since More's departure.


Employee buyout and hiring freeze savings

Senior office assistant    $25,531

HR analyst    $83,510

Senior office specialist    $48,099

Library page    $9,630

Library page     $21,189

Customer service representative    $7,627

Maintenance crew leader    $61,727

Assistant pool manager    $23,554

Office specialist    $38,216

Planning and zoning director    $130,691

Zoning inspector technician    $48,590

Development coordinator    $56,925

Senior office assistant    $42,881

Police lead police dispatcher    $56,819

Police dispatcher    $53,209

Police records specialist    $4,703

Police officer    $62,872

Construction clerk    $50,313

Senior office assistant    $43,983

Streets and drainage crew leader             $68,329

Construction manager    $86,599

Fleet maintenance technician    $43,272

Heavy equipment mechanic    $73,660

Total    $1,139,929

Note: Above positions were either resigned by employees who accepted a town buyout, or were vacant when a hiring freeze was imposed.

Jobs town manager wants filled

Planning and zoning director    $130,691

Police lead police dispatcher    $56,819

Senior office assistant    $42,881

Assistant pool manager    $23,554

Maintenance crew leader    $61,727

Fleet maintenance mechanic    $54,289

Fleet maintenance mechanic    $62,390

Total    $432,351

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